Fall Semester Highlights in Hangzhou, China

Written by Elizabeth Underwood, (Washington and Lee University) Student Correspondent Middlebury School in China: Hangzhou, Fall 2018

In my final blog post, I want to reflect on the activities that I did, as well as aspects of this program in China that really made this time abroad memorable. It’s hard to face the reality that this incredible experience is almost over, but I’m so thankful I chose this program and was given the opportunity to travel around China and study Chinese with people dedicated to helping each other improve their Chinese language abilities. With about a week left in China, I decided to make a list of a few of the highlights or aspects about the program that made my study abroad experience in Hangzhou unforgettable.

  1. The Chinese roommates

My absolute favorite part of this program were the Chinese roommates. My roommate became my best friend during this program and helped me smoothly adjust to living in the high-tech and fast-paced environment of Hangzhou. I also had the opportunity to form friendships with other roommates, and we often all took trips together. For example, we frequently went to the West Lake, KTV, shopping centers, and even amusement parks in Hangzhou. At night before we all went to bed, we would almost always play a few quick games of Uno or Mahjong in order to take a quick break from studying or homework.

  1. Random trips to Nanjing and Shanghai

In an earlier blog post, I talked about an incredible experience traveling to Wuzhen for a weekend with my roommate and some of the other American students. In addition to visiting Wuzhen, my friends and I also spent time in Nanjing and Shanghai. A few of my friends and I spontaneously planned to go to Nanjing one day before booking a bullet train ticket, and we had a blast visiting Purple Mountain in the pouring rain and going to various book stores around Nanjing. In Shanghai, after a program-sponsored event where we were able to meet past program alumni currently living in Shanghai, we were able to hang out with the alumni and go see the bund and people’s park near the center of the city. I will definitely look back on these random trips and miss the thrill of having no set plans but rather “going with the flow” of the cities.

  1. Going to Xianju with the roommates and American students

A few weekends ago, the Chinese roommates, American students, and teachers in the program all visited Xianju and went to see the incredible views of the mountains. We all tackled our fear of heights, hiked up and down the mountain, and walked across a shaky bridge that allowed us to see incredible views of the mountain range. After a long day of hiking, we all made marshmallows together under the stars in a remote town surrounded by towering mountains.

  1. Hangzhou story—visiting Hangzhou and interviewing locals

Hangzhou story was one of the classes that we were required to take while we were studying in Hangzhou. One of the requirements for this class was to film a 30-minute video with a small group about one certain aspect of Hangzhou. For my group’s video, we decided to research Hangzhou architecture and visit four locations in Hangzhou that represented ancient Chinese architecture. At these locations, we filmed each other discussing the details of the architecture and how the architecture relates to other locations in Hangzhou. We also had to interview and film random visitors or workers at these sights and ask them questions about the architecture for our video. This class really encouraged us to leave the classroom and talk to locals who were eager to share their insights.

Reflecting back on this past semester, there were plenty of highs and lows throughout the duration of the program, but I believe all of these experiences changed my outlook on the world and created unforgettable experiences that I’ll carry with me when I return back to America. It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like if I had never studied abroad in China this past term, and I know that I have become a better and more independent person because of my journey here.